Mekong Tourism Forum Concludes with Great Hope for the Future

All Smiles: Organizers of the Mekong Tourism Forum pose for a photo.

The Mekong Tourism Forum 2022 (MTF) was held this week on 12-13 October to highlight the profile of the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) as a unified tourist destination. 

Hosted in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Hoi An (Quang Nam Province) in Vietnam, the theme of the Mekong Tourism Forum 2022 was “Rebuild Tourism, Rebound with Resilience,” appropriately framed after a long hiatus of two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Vietnam organized the event at the luxury 5-star hotel New World Hoiana in collaboration with the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) and with the support of the Asian Development Bank. More than 250 delegates, both local and regional, gathered in Hoi An to participate in the forum.

The MTF 2022 was the region’s first in-person, government-led event since the pandemic marking a significant milestone in tourism recovery within the GMS member countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and China (specifically Yunnan and Guangxi provinces). It brought together regional tourism leaders to rethink the rebuilding of GMS tourism by adopting resilience-based approaches and effectively leveraging technology to create a more sustainable and inclusive sector.

The event also provided a platform for tourism stakeholders and development partners to reconnect in person, exchange their thoughts and experiences on tourism recovery in the region, and gather new insights and advice from industry experts. It enabled the public and private sectors to come together and discuss tourism issues in the area and expand their network for marketing and promoting GMS through collective resources.

Mr. Nguyen Trung Khanh, Chairman of Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Vietnam, urged public and private stakeholders to rethink and reshape the tourism industry towards a more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient future.

He said that despite the positive trends in tourism recovery, the challenging economic environment created by high oil prices, inflation, and international supply chain disruptions has resulted in higher transport and accommodation costs for the tourism sector. This adds pressure to tourism businesses and affects the purchasing power of travelers, which could delay the sub-regional tourism recovery.

ADB’s Senior Sustainable Tourism Specialist, Mr. Wouterus Schalken, shared his perspective on sustainably reviving tourism by highlighting relevant policies, regulations, and investments needed to ensure tourism resilience, emphasizing quality infrastructure, nature-based solutions, and industry-wide adoption of environmentally friendly operational practices and diversification.

Cambodia will host the next MTF between 16-20 March 2023 in Preah Sihanoukville Province, centered around the theme “Rethink for Resiliency and Digitalization.” The aim would be to embark on a new age of travel in the context of the new post-COVID-19 normal.